What exactly is Lebkuchen?

gingerbread history lebkuchen

german lebkuchen gingerbread

Lebkuchen, also known historically as “Pfefferkuchen”, is an old German treat, and arguably Germany's favorite cookie. The main ingredients are: hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, orange & lemon peel, honey. Lebkuchen has a sweet, nutty taste, with a slight touch of spice. It is soft and moist inside, with a slight crunch at the crust. Usually, Lebkuchen are baked on a wafer (Oblate) and covered in sugar-glaze or chocolate.

The most well-known Lebkuchen is the one from Nuernberg, distinguished by its high nut content, which gives it better moisture and flavor than other versions. By definition, Nuernberger Lebkuchen must contain at least 14% tree nuts and must be baked inside the city limits of Nuernberg. 

The word "Lebkuchen" is traced back to the old German word "lebbe" (very sweet). Lebkuchen has ancient roots in the honey cake baked by Egyptians as a gift to the gods. The Lebkuchen we know today traces back to Aachen, where it was taken up by monasteries. Nuns created the Lebkuchen shapes that are used today. These cookies were introduced as "Pfefferkuchen" (pepper cake) to Ulm in 1296. In 1395, they were discovered in Nuernberg. The cookies were first called "Lebkuchen" in 1409.

The spices needed for the Lebkuchen had to be imported from distant lands. Because of this, the Lebkuchen was confined to larger cities with significant international trade, like Nuernberg, Ulm, and Munich. The reputation of Nuernberg as Lebkuchen-Capital grew quickly for two reasons: First, the dense forest around the city was a vast source of honey, a key ingredient in Lebkuchen. Second, Nuernberg was located near the ancient spice route, giving it easy access to exotic spices.

Lebkuchen is Germany's favorite cookie with a huge global fan base, and thanks to modern supply chains it has evolved from a seasonal Christmas product to a year-round treat.

If you are hungry for Lebkuchen now, we have you covered. We are pleased to offer real Nuernberger Lebkuchen here in the USA. We went above and beyond: our Lebkuchen contains 20% tree nuts, vs. the usual 14%. The higher nut content gives our Lebkuchen better flavor and moisture. Click here for more details.


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